Thing #28 – Blood on the Tracks

When I was in high school, I started playing guitar and writing songs. The typical folksy, three-chord masterpieces you’d expect from a teenage girl. In those early years, I was endlessly inspired by Bob Dylan.

I’d listen to Blood on the Tracks and dream of an adulthood rich with travel, intrigue, love and adventure. I was plagued by the restless longing of waiting for life to start and was desperate for a rambling, wandering, Dylan-esque world where I turned every drop of life into poetry. 

In college, I’d write songs about nights as they unfolded. Impromptu tales of shenanigans, complete with singalong choruses designed to make my friends laugh. 

Not long after, I recorded a couple albums of girl-power jams in my apartment, experimenting with layers of sound as I melted into new depths of love, sadness and longing. It was the best way I could process the cliche emotions of my mid-20s. I still love each of those songs like they were children.

Although that songwriting life slowly fell away from me, we parted on good terms. It’s still a part of me, but I’ve heaped a bunch of other stuff on top of it, and it now lives toward the bottom of the pile.

Every so often, I encounter someone or something that pulls it to the top of the heap, reminding me of that wide-eyed girl with big wandering dreams. It reconnects me with the simple essence of who I was and where I came from. In those moments I feel filled up, like everything is possible. Life feels enormous and meaningless at the same time.

Songs can do that. Changes of season do that. Old friends do that. And sometimes all three line up and do it at the same time. 

We’ve just entered the clean slate of a new season ready to be colored by summer memories. I had the opportunity to connect with a friend who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade. We’ve gotten older and have had twists and turns in our lives, but when we saw each other, it felt like no time had passed at all. That’s the best part of friendship, right? I sunk into the simplicity and comfort of a conversation that roared down a path like a wild freight train. 

Being with an old friend is like having someone hold up a mirror to you, reflecting parts of yourself you love but have forgotten about. They have an uncanny way of tapping into and revealing your core – connecting you to the deepest, simplest and most hopeful parts of yourself.

He mentioned an arrangement of “Simple Twist of Fate” that’s been in his current rotation and instantly I remembered a whole version of myself that had been dormant. (FYI you guys – it’s from Blood on the Tracks.) Just like that, I became unearthed from the bottom of the heap.

The next day, I sat on the breezy deck of my childhood home remembering the young me who sat in the same spot dreaming of a wandering lifestyle that would give me juicy content for writing. Naturally, I listened to Blood on the Tracks to keep me company. 

I smiled as each new song shuffled on, as if they intentionally popped up to surprise me. They’re still so good – maybe somehow better. I still have every word of “Tangled Up in Blue” sitting on the tip of my tongue. And to me, the flowery lyrics of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” have always perfectly embodied the feeling of fresh, sparkly love. The kind where some part of your body needs constant contact with some part of theirs, and separation makes your bones ache. I inched even closer to the top of the heap.

Teenage me is looking at the nearly 40 me, realizing it all worked out. I’ve built my life in a way that has given me stories and rich experiences. I choose to spend time with people who make me feel like the fullest version of myself, and I stay attentive to the universe when it lines up and whispers in my ear.

I suppose I’ve developed my own special brand of a rambling, wandering Dylan-esque life. In some ways, My 39 Things has become my own personal Blood on the Tracks. Minus the harmonica. I honestly kinda hate the harmonica.

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